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We have been following the game Vex closely as has been apparent by the recent preview and we think that it is going to be an awesome game. As we have seen in past year, indie games have become quite the trend and now people are moving on from the conventional games to the games that have more ingenuity involved.


ABOUT Sam Stenner

After evolving past the Call of Duty stage that plagues every teenagers prepubescent years, Sam discovered the fun and subtle beauty of less popular games, and therefore the PC gaming community. Although he still adores AAA games like Far Cry 4, Shadow of Mordor and Fallout 4, he still finds time to sit down to play The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Robocraft. Being a game developer gives him a slightly different view on the gaming community, as he allows the ideas of totally crazy and original games to influence his idea of Indie gaming, which helps him in putting unique spins on his work. It’s never been a better time to be a part of the PC gaming master race!

The Interview

Being a game developer, it is highly possible that you’ve played games, so when did you start gaming, and which is your most memorable game till date? What inspired you to get into game development?

I started on the Nintendo Wii, a fantastic console brought to life with games such as Mario Kart, and Super Mario Galaxy. I like to think their quirky-cartoon style is paid homage in my games, as it’s definitely an aesthetic I like. My favourite game however, is Call of Duty Black Ops (The first one). Although it’s a Call of Duty, it takes me back to the long summer months filled with night-long, energy-drink fuelled marathons. Zombie maps by Treyarch are still, to me, the most respected works of game-based art. What inspired me to begin game development was the realisation that something I thought I would love is actually easily attainable, as the tools are all available to me. If Notch can create something as simple (but wonderful) as Minecraft, then who’s to say other Indie developers can’t give it a go?

You are interested in Maths, Physics and Computer science and development of games. Which was the first game that you tried your hands on?

My first game was a school project, which was kind of like a 2D version of Slender, but based more around story telling than moving around an environment. After that, I built a 2D version of Minecraft using Python, which was surprisingly accurate considering my relatively poor programming ability at the time. It had an inventory, health, physics, crafting, mining, block generation, everything! Since then I’ve created a few small projects, before finally settling down to work on my biggest project to date, Vex.

If you were given a choice to work on game development with a company, which company will it be?

I’m a big fan of Bethesda, they’re pretty good to their audience. Valve is also very consumer friendly, so either companies would be great. I’d certainly put EA and Ubisoft at the bottom of the list, as they’re basically run by corporate cronies.

What makes Vex special to you? Where did you get the ideas and inspiration?

Any game developer will tell you why they feel their game is special, but at the end of the day, the amount of love, care and attention that we put in to our games often makes us forget what we think the consumer is going to think. To me, Vex is my masterpiece, but proving that is much more tricky. Only I will ever know the amount of programming, code design, and bug fixing that went in to Vex. I feel Vex’s strongest component is the mechanics – they’re smooth, intuitive, and innovative. But of course, that’s up to you to decide! I feel the combination of the eccentric yet beautiful textures and aesthetics, with the interesting game mechanics, will work coherently with each other, not to mention the map design! I was somewhat inspired by the Super Mario games, basing the puzzle-breaking logic and map design off of that. Vex is still different, as it focusses on a more cube-based environment, with distinct shapes and enemies demonstrating the quirky nature of Vex. Don’t be fooled though, Vex can be devilishly difficult at points, and players will often find themselves so engrossed in trying to understand the logic of a certain level, they may forget how good the map looks, which is fine of course! It’s supposed to be a healthy mix of both the peaceful and the stressful.


As we understand, Vex is a puzzle game. How much time did it take to idealize the game alone. I mean, what was the original idea and how was it improvised by you and your team?

Great question! The game was meant to be just a playful platformer game, where the player had to navigate through the map, and avoid the enemies. There’s no doubt that element of the game is still a fundamental part of Vex, but I didn’t feel like it was anything new, or anything particularly exciting. So I decided to try to integrate the idea of making the player have to think hard about the level, and not just charge in. Some levels often require a complex plan! Unfortunately, I only came up with this idea about halfway through the game, and I was unable to go back and change everything. Every level still has an element of puzzle-breaking, but as the player progresses through the game, they will notice the shift towards being more difficult, especially the 4th dimension. One of my team-members suggested the Quantum entanglement dynamic in the 4th dimension, which totally shook up the levelling system, as the players will soon learn. Vex is not an improvised game in any sense, as we still stuck to the original plan; however, it has been treated with a lot of both love and hate to create what we hope will be something people will raise an eyebrow to, in a good way!

You said that you came up with the idea of doing something new halfway through the development and couldn’t go back and rectify the whole thing. If you were given one chance to go back in time and change one aspect in your development what would it be?

My team is extremely pleased with the way Vex turned out, and although we did think of some ideas later down the road, we wouldn’t say the fact they’re not as prevalent in some of the first levels is in any way detrimental to the game. With that said, a few of the dynamics from the later levels would have been a nice touch in the first levels, such as some environmental structures. Reimplementing these would require the first part of the game to be almost entirely ripped up though, and it’s not worth it, Vex is great either way. If we were to create a sequel to Vex (which is unlikely) then the game would probably incorporate the quantum entanglement mechanic from the very beginning. But to directly address your question, I would have loved to bring the unlock buttons to some of the previous maps too.

Well, we still don’t know much about the game, so we don’t know what Quantum Entanglement and what other in-game terms mean right now. (Shh… No spoilers), but mechanically which area do you think that the game will excel at?

It’s a similar concept to teleportation, but it’s been given a very unique re-imagining. I really do like it, and I’m sure the player is going to find it both useful, and entertaining. I think the game will excel particularly with the use of different powers to exploit the environment. They’re paramount to completing some levels, and I personally love using them. The ‘Incorporealator’ (A mouthful, I know) is an especially fun power, and grants the player a kind of god mode, but we’ve made very sure it’s not overpowered by implementing limitations. I think that, mixed with the entanglement mechanic is going to be very attractive to people who are bored with the usual stuff the gaming market is flooded with.

Coming to other aspects of the game, music. Where has the music been taken from?

Well the music is tailored to the level type. For example, the Fire world features music that complements the a volcanic, lava-based world. In the Ice world, the music is more… well… icy! The Nature world and Darkness world both follow suit. There is also an Easter Egg level which features a very strange track. We’ll leave that to the players to decide!

So who decided the music for the levels. Who pitched in the idea of the tracks?

I decided on the genre, and went out looking music that would suit the game (ensuring all music we chose had no kind of royalty affiliation). After discussing the choices, we collaboratively chose which tracks would make the final cut.

Vex team hard at work
The Vex in early part of its development
Ohk…. Coming to the development part… What were problems that you faced while making the game?

I think that the main problem we faced was actually creating a game that relied heavily on physics, without being too demanding on the players hardware. We want Vex to look beautiful to everyone who plays it, not just people with amazing computers. We’ve actually managed to engineer Vex so well, that you don’t need a graphics card to run it, despite its amazing particle effects, and dynamic lighting. Making sure that the coding was designed and created in the most efficient way possible, and considering I’d never had to program anything with a specific audience in mind, this was difficult. However, despite that being our biggest problem, I would also call it our biggest success, as the programming behind Vex is something we are particularly proud of, as we believe game developers should spend as much time optimizing their game, as creating it. I might also add that creating graphical work for the game was difficult, until we managed to get in contact with a graphics designer. Before that, I doubt we would have been able to launch Vex.

After all this, how do would you describe the development period of Vex? I mean the trajectory of the graph that it followed. What all did you get to learn, not only in technical terms of game development but life values as well?

I’m glad you asked! Vex followed an exponential graph, where the game only became more intense as we went along. It started off as only a small game, one that we weren’t even going to share with the world, and it snowballed into something we think people would love. It was only after we realized that our combination of game mechanics and map design was actually comparable to some other games on Steam, that we realised we could actually be more ambitious, and make something even better. It’s been nearly a year since we started (and to begin with, it was only myself working on the game), and I have learnt both technical and social lessons. In terms of technicality, I’ve learned about optimizing for different hardware, balancing code to be both proficient and efficient, and making sure the player can fluently interact with the world, by making sure the maps and game mechanics are well implemented. I’ve also had to put myself in the shoes of the gamer, and try to find what it is in games that makes them enjoyable, and then find a way of personalizing those traits. It goes without saying that teamwork and communication were paramount to the completion of Vex, and I’m proud to have led such a fantastic team. If the development of Vex has taught me anything, it’s that working hard enough will always yield the results you want, despite how big the competition is. If I could offer any advice to other potential developers out there, I’d tell them that even though you think you can’t compete with more professional developers, you can. If you’re bright, and you have a great idea that you think people will enjoy, they probably will. Learning to code and design graphics are just obstacles, and truly great games aren’t built by people who can code games, they’re built by people you can program fun and enjoyment into the minds of those who play the game. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned.

Judging from what you’ve said, I think that one of the best things in life was developing Vex. So what are your expectations for the game?

You’re certainly right in saying it’s been one of the coolest things I’ve ever been involved with. On March 1st, we will be launching our Steam Greenlight campaign. If we generate enough public interest, our game will become available to buy on Steam. If it manages to achieve that, then I would ask for nothing more – at that point, financial gain becomes irrelevant, and the prestige of actually creating something other people like is enough of a payment. Of course any revenue generated would be used to pay off for any assets used, so that would be great. My personal expectations are that the game will receive both praise and criticism, but a healthy mix. I want to hear what people comment on the game, so we can make some adjustments before the release.

There is always positive criticism as well as negative criticism. A healthy mix will provide you with inputs of what your strong and weak points are. So are you planning to make another game if the game is Greenlit successfully?

If successfully Greenlit, we would certainly consider a sequel. Our main obstacle would be keeping the team together, as we all have different plans for the next 2 years. I will never stop developing games, and it may be the case that in a couple of years I find a group of people who are as interested in game development like myself, so I might propose an idea for a project. I don’t want to adopt the idea that it’s okay to churn out games, just because I know that now we have an established name, that we can make money. If that’s what happens, I’ll pull out of the industry. Gaming creation is an art, and artists who paint for money more than they paint for passion, are not artists. Of course, making money is fine, but I don’t ever want it to be a requirement for motivation. If I come up with an idea that I think people who love, I’d give it a go. If it doesn’t turn out as well as I hoped, I won’t bother with greenlight.

You said that developing games is an art and I wholeheartedly agree with you. There are many aspiring developers out there and some of them may have great ideas. Do you think that it is necessary to be a gamer initially to become a game developer and what message do you have for budding game developers?

I think it certainly helps. If someone has an idea for a game, but isn’t a gamer themselves, they probably either have an idea that’s already been thought of, or one that isn’t going to appeal to people. With that said, if someone isn’t part of the gaming community, they may have a much more indoctrinated idea of how games are, and might bring something totally new to the table. However, I still think that good art is always inspired by the good parts of other people’s work. You could ask Freddy Mercury, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, and they’d all tell you where they got their ideas from. As a gamer myself, I have an idea of what is fun, and what is addictive, and at the end of the day, that gives me an advantage.

I guess you are right about the inspiration part. Being a gamer would give you an advantage and will also help you to combine good ideas to make a different type. Anyways, it was nice talking to you Sam. I hope that your game is successful and we are able to play the game as soon as possible. All the best for all your future endeavors.

Thank you very much for giving me your time Pratyush, it’s been a pleasure.

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What do you think of VEX. Have you checked it out yet? Are you interested? Will you help Vex get greenlit. Let us know all this and more in the comments section below.

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